Pretoria, South Africa - Malawi came out on top against the SPAR Proteas after the two top teams on the continent battled it out in the four nations Netball Diamond Challenge in Pretoria on Friday night.
South Africa were beaten 47-42 in the jam-packed Heartfelt Arena, as the crowd witnessed an outstanding display of international netball. Chrisna Bootha was back as South Africa’s goal shooter and had a shaky start after missing the two previous games with flu. The tight first quarter ended 12-10 in favour of the visitors as neither side was willing to give an inch.
While they were never able to close the gap, the Proteas adapted to the quicker style of play and seemed to settle down as the Malawians continued to exert pressure. With the possession balanced between the two sides, Malawi went into the half-time break with a three point lead, at 24-21. Their lead increased to ten goals at one point in the third quarter, with South Africa missing regulation goals on several occasions.
Coach Elize Kotze made a few changes to her team and they pulled back two points, going into the last 15 minutes with the score at 38-30. South Africa made a good start to the final quarter, scoring four goals in a row, which could have been more had their shooting been more accurate. Bongi Msomi, the driving force in the middle of the court, suffered cramps and eventually had to be substituted and, just before the final whistle, Bootha also limped off the court. South Africa reduced the gap to five goals in the end and were disappointed not to have done better given that they actually had more shots on goal – 59 to Malawi’s 54.
“At this level, we have to be more consistent,” said SPAR Proteas captain Zanele Mdodana after the match. “We have to take every chance we get. “There is no room for errors and no room for mediocrity. Every opportunity you get, you have to make use of it.” She said she felt they did not capitalise on their chances and the team would get together again in the morning to focus on eliminating their errors. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed tonight, because I saw something in us that I haven’t seen in a while,” she said. “We actually fought to the end and we didn’t give up. “We managed to close the gap towards the end of the match which showed good character and good fitness, because we could have just given up.”
Earlier, Botswana edged out Zambia by 59 goals to 41 and both teams meet the same opponents again on Saturday while the Proteas get another shot at the big guns when they meet Malawi in the tournament final at 1.40pm. Sapa, Jenny Bernstein